Concept cars are a good way of doing that. Most big marques have already introduced their proposals, and the common theme seems to be that, with the driver out of the picture altogether, the car will become a proper lounge on wheels. Robotaxis will be the future of urban mobility, and, as far as private ownership is concerned, cars will become the place where one disconnects from the busy routine of everyday life, a rolling office, an entertainment center, or even a hotel-like vehicle.
Given the electric drivetrain and the removal of all driving controls and equipment, there will be more space inside the cabin. With the desire to further maximize this space, the car of tomorrow becomes a box on wheels – a cute, slightly futuristic-looking box, but a box nonetheless. A pod, as carmakers are more likely to call it.
Developed by the Volkswagen Group Future Center Europe in Potsdam for the DRIVE. OnePod is a concept study developed with the precise aim of showing how the switch to electric and reaching full autonomy will theoretically influence VW vehicles. The “One” in the name stands for “One Solution for all” since this would be a vehicle offered with a customizable layout that would render it suitable for anything from public transport (robotaxi) to private ownership or service fleets. The “Pod” is self-explanatory.
OnePod is a cute box that looks small but offers ample space inside. The model Go.City, part of the “Go.City – The Future of Urban Mobility” program, can seat up to six passengers and comes with a foldable bike rack in the rear to integrate a last-mile solution as well. The doors slide open, allowing easy access even to people with disabilities or people carrying luggage and strollers.
To that same end, the OnePod’s sensors immediately detect the height of the curb as it pulls over and the vehicle lowers the floor for step-less entry. In the case of robotaxis, access inside will be granted once the pod identifies the passenger (or passengers), and opens the door. A display in the door welcomes and informs the rider of every step in the process.
OnePod, like many other similar concepts out there, comes with expansive glazing and windows that double as screens. Large panels surround the vehicle, and another is in the roof so that passengers can choose between taking in the views as they travel or catching up on their favorite show. Controls for the riders are integrated into the adjustable armrests.
“Electromobility and autonomous driving give us more freedom in design, as the space in the interior is growing, among other things, and this offers completely new design options,” Peter Wouda, Head of the Volkswagen Group Future Center Europe explains. “With the OnePod we are following this development and are also giving children and older people in particular an additional and new option to get around the city individually, in an environmentally friendly and safe manner.”
Eco-friendly and safe are just two of the attributes that would describe OnePod, but original or particularly beautiful are not. If anything, this new concept confirms what many have been saying for months: with the driver out of the question, it seems like automakers are struggling to adjust, at least from a design perspective.
That said, if you’re in Berlin, Germany by December 31, 2021, you can see the OnePod at the DRIVE. “Go.City – The Future of Urban Mobility” exhibit.